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USGS Mineral-mapping Opens Up Afghanistan's Mineral And Gas Sector

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The United States has completed a high-tech mineral-mapping of Afghanistan's likely subsurface locations of hydrocarbons such as crude oil and natural gas, and minerals like copper, gold, lithium, iron and silver.

The effort, first of its kind in the world, by the U.S. Geological Survey, is expected to fetch $1 billion in revenue by 2020, according to the Afghan Government.

"Today is a very important day for geology ... because the U.S. Geological Survey is going to hand over 26 boxes of data and maps to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan," American Forces Press Service quoted Mohammad Akbar Barakzai, Afghanistan's minister of mines and petroleum, as saying.

The maps were developed using a technology called hyperspectral imaging, which measures visible and near-infrared light reflecting off the Earth's surface.

Mining companies could use hyperspectral data to evaluate opportunities in Afghanistan's mineral and gas sector.

Barakzai said the results of the data is going to help the war-torn country "attract more investment and also show investors specific places where they can invest in different kinds of deposits."

He joined officials from the USGS and the Defense Department's Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) last week at the Embassy of Afghanistan, Washington.

All three organizations are part of a coalition created by the Pentagon to share American international science and technology as a strategic tool for promoting economic development.

"We can now confidently invite investors to come into Afghanistan and show them where we have potential," the Afghan minister said, acknowledging the help provided by the USGS, the Task Force, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the US government "at a very critical time for Afghanistan."

Joseph Catalino, acting director of the DOD task force, said TFBSO works with private-sector firms to encourage them to invest in Afghanistan's mineral and hydrocarbon sectors.

"Big companies, small companies, even really small companies are all asking the same questions -- what's there, where do we look and where do we drill? That's where this data comes into play," he added.

The extractive industries and companies will know more and they'll have to spend less time finding the mineral veins and hydrocarbon pools, which will help stabilize the nation's economy faster than we projected, according to Catalino.

USGS Acting Director Dr. Suzette Kimball told the embassy audience that this is the first hyperspectral survey of an entire country, which represents the single largest volume of imaging spectroscopy data collection by any agency or organization on Earth.

USGS is focused on the release of hyperspectral maps that are 1:250,000 scale for 30 quadrangles that cover the entire country of Afghanistan.

Dr. Trude King, a Denver-based USGS research geophysicist and lead for the Afghanistan hyperspectral data project, said the data has helped accelerate the exploration and the commercialization, and improved the economic security of Afghanistan.

He added that full coverage of the country was not possible because of security reasons, but stressed that "with this data we have helped transition Afghan's natural resources sector into the 21st century."

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